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halitza

(Hebrew: "drawing off"), Jewish ritual whereby a widow is freed from the biblical obligation of marrying her brother-in-law (levirate marriage) in cases where her husband died without issue. To enable a widow to marry a "stranger," the ritual of halitza had to be performed in the prescribed manner. The widow was to approach her brother-in-law "in the presence of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say, 'So shall it be done to the man who does not build up his brother's house' " (Deuteronomy 25:9). As the words and actions indicate, the man was meant to be disgraced. Removal of the shoe apparently expressed the man's intention not to take possession of his "property," for normally one took possession of real property by walking on the land

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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